In this age of Twitter speak and keyboard warriors, speaking ill of others is often celebrated, rather than frowned upon. Social media comments, for example, are posted and reposted until they go viral. Instant communities are formed over sites like Snapchat, where someone can go live with their thoughts and feelings thorough a variety of video and IM features.
While these apps give users an opportunity to vent and express themselves, they can be the start of a litigation nightmare for divorcing couples. Take, for example, the 2014 case of Schacter v. Shacter, an epic divorce battle that ended with the wife getting far less in alimony than she had expected, thanks to her public accusations against her husband. The divorce, referred to by the judge as “one of the most contentious litgations this court has ever presided over”, involved some serious marital misconduct on the part of Mr. Schacter, including domestic violence and dissipation of martial funds. Mr. Schacter's excessive spending allegedly included blowing $200,000 on an engagement ring for his girlfriend, while denying his daughter money for a hearing aid.
The husband's action were arguably deplorable, but the wife did herself no favors by going to the press with her complaints. The story was quickly picked up by newspapers and online media outlets, which the husband claimed had resulted in the devaluation of his partnership value at Cadwalder, Wickersham and Taft, a prestigious international law firm. The judge agreed with the husband, stating that “in essence, the wife chose to bite the hand that fed her” with her “repeated attacks against him.”
Although it can't be proven that the wife launched a deliberate smear campaign against her husband, her public accusations were unreasonable, considering her intelligence and knowledge of public relations. In short, she should have known that bad mouthing her husband would hurt his reputation, which would in turn, hurt his ability to build and maintain his client base. The judge supported her assessment by pointing out the husband's nomination for Above the Law's sarcastic column, “Lawyer of the Month”. While it's impossible to measure the exact amount of damage, being called out as a shady lawyer on this very popular website had to hurt on some level.
This is a cautionary tale for anyone who thinks they have nothing to lose by going public with their feelings. Even those who are careful to not mention their ex, employer, family members, etc., by name should be aware that identities can be easily uncovered in the age of universal internet access. Depending on your spouse's profession, any public implications of moral or ethical misconduct could result in irreparable damage, for which you may be held responsible. While badmouthing your ex may feel good, it is by far more constructive to spend your time and energy on resolving your divorce with help from an experienced attorney. For more information on your divorce rights and legal options, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.
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